BB: We just had one roster move today. We released Jack Fadule, a tackle. Otherwise, we are just grinding through camp. This is what camp is. It is another day, meetings, installation, practice, treatment and get up and do it again. I think the team is starting to, obviously, get worked down a little bit but we are going to work through it. That is where you build your toughness and your conditioning and your resiliency and learn how to play when you are tired and learn when to play under stress and do all of those things. There is no other way to do it other than to go through it, but I think you have to create it and that is what some of the first days of camp are for, to create that type of situation, to put the team under some stress and then start working through it and prepare ourselves to react to those types of situations when they come up later on in the year. We are just grinding through camp just like you are grinding through stories.
Q: Do you guys, the coaches, go through a little bit of that at well?
BB: Absolutely. That is a part of it on the coaching end as well too. You are putting in a lot of stuff, trying to evaluate personnel, trying to evaluate your scheme, your plays, trying to make adjustments as players move in and out and you get players back. Sometimes players miss time and managing that situation and pretty soon we will be starting to get ready for preseason games. So it is still a lot of balls up in the air on the coaching end of it too.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the way Corey Dillon is picking things up in camp?
BB: Good. I think it is going fine. Corey has worked hard. I think it is a little bit of an adjustment for him. He had been with one organization for a number of years until very recently. I think he has picked things up well. There are still a lot of things to do but, to this point he has been fine.
Q: Do you expect any new guys back out there today?
BB: I am always hopeful. We will see how it goes. Until they are out there, I don't want to say they are out there. We didn't go this morning. Hopefully we will have some people returning this afternoon.
Q: Brandon Gorin, has he taken it to the next level in this offseason?
BB: Well, he is improving and he is getting an opportunity to get a lot of snaps out there. He and Adrian [Klemm] are taking a lot of snaps and that is an opportunity for them to move their game up and to take advantage of their offseason, their individual work, their training, their technique work and all of that to really get out there and be able to work and refine it here in camp. Anytime a player misses time, that is bad for the player that is missing it but it provides an opportunity for the next guy that gets it. I think so far Brandon is making some steady progress. There is a long way to go. In this period of time, this next week or so, I don't think we are going to find out a whole lot about Troy Brown but I think that we are going to find out about some of the players who haven't played as much, how resilient they are, how they are on a consistent basis and that is very important to us, their consistency and their ability to play at a dependable level regardless of the situation or the circumstances or how they feel and we know everybody doesn't feel well. That is the idea.
Q: Do you feel like with the youth you have on the offensive line, you might be closer to solidifying a unit of five consistent players?
BB: I don't think you see too many teams where a lot of big units can stay together consecutively. That just doesn't happen in the NFL at any position just because of the nature of the system. I think in any five-year period, you are probably looking at approximately 75 percent turnover on every team. In some cases, where there is turnover at the top of the organization and on the coaching staff, you are seeing it quicker than that. After five years, you look back at just about any team's roster to what it is today and what it was five years ago, the number of names on there that are the same, it is probably not much more than 25 percent. In some cases, I know it is a lot lower than that.
Q: Is that a testament to Dante [Scarnecchia], the scouts and the system, that you have been able to field an offensive line?
BB: I think it starts with Dante. Dante is awesome. He is as good as it gets. He does a great job with that group. He does a great job with them individually and bringing along their individual techniques and working on their strengths and weaknesses as an individual player. Then collectively as a group, getting the unit to play and function efficiently on a consistent basis. He is really good.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about Zeron Flemister and how he is taking advantage of his opportunity?
BB: Zeron has some experience and has been in the league four years and he has played at Washington. He is a big kid. He is pretty athletic. He has played in the kicking game. He is pretty good in the receiving game. He has gotten a chance to do some things here, particularly in two-tight end offense where he is sometimes more the move guy and plays a little bit more in space and those type of responsibilities rather than as a really in-line type of tight end. Yes, he has gotten a lot of reps. I think that has certainly helped him pick the system up. He is smart, but it has helped him pick it up and help him get the actual playing experience to take that teaching to on the field game experience. I think so far he has done a decent job for us.
Q: On paper, where would you rank this team's ability versus other teams that you have coached on?
BB: I don't know. I am not big on those rankings. You know that. It is hard on paper. It is how a team works together and how it functions together and it is way too early to rank this team on any of that. We don't even have all of our stuff in.
Q: You said that you felt this team is better prepared to defend the title than it was in 2002. What do you like about this particular team?
BB: I think it potentially is. I just think we are a little further along. I think we should be. I think we are a little further along in the program. Guys have been doing it a little bit longer. We are still bringing in new people and turning over guys. There is no way around that. We have rookies this year just like we had them a couple of years ago and that was a pretty good rookie group. Overall, we have more experience in doing the things we are doing. We have been in the system longer. The coaching staff, generally, has a little more experience together as a staff than it did two years ago. I think a lot of those residual things make you feel a little bit better. You hope you are ahead of where you were two years ago.
Q: Looking at your roster on a whole, at the linebackers in particular, you have a lot of guys who have started for other teams in the league and have come here to fill back-up roles to create depth. Whereas on other teams if someone goes down, they are usually putting someone in there with not much game experience.
BB: I would venture to just guess that probably all teams have that scenario in certain positions and then have less of it in other positions. It is just hard to maintain that across the board on a 53-man roster. I think overall, our depth is okay. You are always looking to get it better. It is never where you want it to be. I think it is okay and it has been a strength for us the last couple of years overall I would say.
Q: Is there a particular reason at that position?
BB: I think it more just kind of happened that way. We try to improve the depth on our roster at every position all the time. That is a 24-7 job. It is not like we sit here and say, 'Okay, we really want to have depth at linebacker. At all cost, we are going to have depth at linebacker.' We want depth at linebacker. We want depth at receiver. We want depth at every position. Some places it happens and it works out so you have more than others for whatever the circumstances are. It isn't, like I said, specifically planned to, 'Well, this is the position we are going to have a lot of depth at and we will do the best we can everywhere else.'
Q: Stephen Neal has had some interesting experiences with the team. Where would you say he is right now?
BB: That is a good question. I don't really know. He hasn't played football in over a year. Well over a year. Where that puts him, I don't know. I think we're going to know as we get into camp here and as the days start piling up. There are a lot of things to like about Steve. But his overall experience level and the time he's had away from football, particularly recently, are the hurdles that he has to get over. He's worked hard to get over them. I don't think conditioning is an issue. I don't think his physical ability is an issue. His playing experience and being able to put all of those things together, those are the things that he has to work the hardest on, technique and things like that. When he was working on his wrestling techniques, which he was very good at, and things very specific to that sport, guys in this sport were working on these techniques. They are just further ahead of him on those areas.
Q: And the opportunities to show that can only come on the field?
BB: Oh, sure. He's been out there every day. Steve works hard and he's getting better at them. Again, you're talking about guys that have played football for double-digit years and a guy that has maybe just five years of experience when you start to take everything into consideration. There's a gap there.
Q: You've reached a point where you've used him in a game. How far does he need to go to get your confidence back up to the point where you'll put him back out there?
BB: I think that can be done with a good, solid preseason. It could be done. I'm not saying it will be. I don't think it is the kind of thing that is going to happen in a few days. Again, the issue with Steve is not going to physical conditioning or that type of thing. That is all there. The time he's had away from football has been without the 21 other guys on the field. That is what he needs the most of, is playing football and doing it in the full football environment, not wind sprints and sit-ups and all that. He could do that stuff all day. That is not really the issue, it is the totality of the game. Camps have helped him, but those spring camps are better for the skill players and better in the passing game than they are for the interior line positions. There is a lot of teaching and a lot of benefit to them, but it is not the same as playing it in training camp. All that being said, I think he's moving along at a good pace and doing well, but he's got a long way to go.
Q: Is there any benefit to drafting a pair of rookies at the same position? Is there an added benefit in how they can work together?
BB: They probably can work together. With all of the rookies in one class, I think there's more of a bind to that class. I'm not saying it is the ultimate bond, but it certainly brings those players together to a degree because they all go through the same experiences. They go through the same meetings, they go through a lot of the same indoctrination in various forms together. I think that brings them a little bit closer together that just, say, another guy on the team. If they're at the same position, then they just do more of that. It doesn't really mean that they're going to end up bonding closely, although sometimes it could turn out that way. I think it is just another familiar face, someone who's going through what you're going through and can relate to everything that is happening to you. At the same time, there's a little bit of competition there, but it is in a good way.
Q: Can you talk a little but about the benefit to a couple of days of night practices? Is that something you've always wanted to do, practice under the lights?
BB: What time are you talking about?
Q: The 5:00-7:00 practices.
BB: Well, we're not under the lights out there. It is daylight at that time of day. The advantage to doing it the way we're doing it right now is that we have a meeting before every practice. If you practice earlier in the afternoon, in order to give the players time to eat and time to get taped and all of that for the afternoon practice, say if you go at 9:00 and 3:00, there really isn't any meeting time in the afternoon in order to accomplish all of the other things: meeting, getting taped, giving them a little bit of time to get off their feet so you're not basically out there for one big continuous practice. By moving it back, it gives you a meeting before the next practice.
Q: Is that something that you've always wanted to do in the past but it never worked out?
BB: It is something that we changed last year. We re-evaluate everything we do all the time. That was something that we talked about and some of the coaches on our staff had had experience with. Once we got through talking about it, we thought it would be worth giving it a shot. Based on last year, we thought that that was a more productive use of our time. That is why we're doing it again this year.
Q: Have any of the younger defensive backs impressed you in camp?
BB: I think that all of the defensive backs are competitive. I don't think there are any of them that are just so far behind that they can't be competitive. They're going up against a good group of receivers. That being said, they have a long way to go, but I think there is something to work with there and if they can stay on the field and continue to improve on a daily basis and get better in the kicking game, I think there's a chance that eventually they could contend for some type of position on this team. That would include all of them.
Q: What about a guy like Randall Gay?
BB: He would be in that group. I think there are players that are ahead of him at this point, but he's young, he's learning a system and going up against a group of guys who are a pretty competitive group, but I think he's handling himself pretty well and he's hanging in there. Again, we'll see how it goes here are the days start to add up and you start tacking practice after practice after practice onto it. What we're going to see if that some guys are going to be able to keep up the pace and other guys are not going to be able to keep it up. We probably won't know that until we go all the way through it. It doesn't really make a difference what we project now. We'll know for sure in due course. That is the process we're going through. It will be based on consistency and a longer evaluation. I respect the plays that he's making, I know what you're saying on that, and we see those too. But it won't be, 'Well, he made a great play two days ago.' It will be more of a continual basis on his assignments, his technique and his overall playmaking ability.
Q: Have you gotten what you've expected out of him? Did you talk to Nick Saban about him?
BB: Oh, sure, I talked to Nick about him. Nick had him down there, Nick is a great coach, he knows his players well, and what he told me was 100 percent accurate.
Q: At what point in your coaching career did you start to put emphasis on this particular time of year, when guys start to get tired, of looking at guys differently?
BB: I would say from the first year. The first year, I went to camp in Baltimore on July 5 and we opened the season on September 21. It was six preseason games, three scrimmages, and two-and-a-half months of training camp. Two-and-a-half months we were in training camp. When you first start, and especially your first year in pro football, you have the Bert Jones', Mike Curtis and Lydell Mitchell, but after two-and-a-half months, it all sorted itself out. It was a great experience for me but after two-and-a-half months of football, some guys were better than others and it was pretty clear-cut. Like I said, what one guy did in one practice or on one play or whatever, there were so many thousand plays run, that that one play was truly spitting in the ocean. There were so many of them that you really had a sense for who the players were and who they weren't by the end of training camp. So, that was a great experience.
Q: Is it less clear-cut now because it is so compact?
BB: It is much more compact compared to that.
Q: It is less quick like who the players are?
BB: Sure. I think you see that every year. You get to the final cuts and you make the cuts that you feel like are best at the time. If you had more time, if you had more of an evaluation period, I am sure that some of them would be different. As you go through the season, you see some players get shuffled around, young guys that got cut off one team and get picked up somewhere else and they end up playing and other young guys the teams keep and they end up not doing so well and sooner or later, they end up getting released without ever doing very much. With those evaluation periods, you really get a solid look at the player in a lot of different situations and over time, it is a lot easier to make a decision.
Q: So presumably the quarterback school and mini-camps back then can't possibly suffice for training camp.
BB: Well there was no offseason program. There was no weight room. There was a little room with a universal gym with a couple of mats on it and that was it. Most teams didn't even have a strength coach.
Q: Right, now you do all this stuff in the spring, but it is not contact.
Q: There were more contact practices than you do now?
BB: Right. Now a big part of the season is that March to middle of June, whatever the exact dates are, and that is a year round job. Even the colleges, there were hardly any weight rooms, there weren't any strength coaches. Players didn't train in the offseason anywhere near the way they train now and the training camp that was really the training period. I remember Art Donovan and those guys talking about how they would come to training camp and spend three weeks getting in shape and another three weeks playing football then another couple of weeks getting ready for the regular season. It was a half a season compared to more of the year round scenario that it is now. The training was totally different. But that first year, you talk about a grind now, two-and-a-half months of training camp, that was a grind. There was no moving to the stadium or moving to any regular facility or any of that. It was just hopscotch-ing around to Gaucher College, McDonough, which was a little boy's school, practicing at Eastern High School across the street from the stadium. That was a glorified parking lot with dirt on it. It was a different ballgame.
Q: When you look at players going through the daily grind now, what are you looking for? Is it just consistency?
BB: Well, what you see on the field. That is where it all needs to be shown. A guy could answer all of the questions in the classroom right and then that is good. He can do well on a test, whatever the case is. What you need is consistency on the field. That is where we are all judged and that is where the game is played. It has to transfer out there and it has to transfer as a unit. It is a team sport. Even though I know my assignment, if I can't interact well with the rest of the players that I am doing it with, then it is not going to be as effective as it would otherwise. So, it is important for all of those things to fall into place. That is a big part of it too. It is not just all of us being in condition and all of us going out there and practicing but working and communicating, seeing the same things together so that we can react to them in unison. That is getting your team ready.